Prominent Ryans


images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Donald Hillsdon Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Edward George Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes)Frank Ryan - Noted Genetic Researcher

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Frederick Joseph Ryan
images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Frederick Joseph Ryan, Jr
images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Captain James Ryan - See Below Revolutionary War Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes)  James H. Ryan, PhD

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Jimmy Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) General John Dale Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Vice-Admiral John R. Ryan - need information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ryan - See Below Revolutionary War Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Captain Michael Ryan - See Below Revolutionary War Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Vice-Admiral Norbert R. Ryan, Jr. - need information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Philip Ryan
images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Major Robert Ryan - See Below Revolutionary War Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Steven Walker Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Thomas Francis Ryan

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Timothy Ryan - See Below Information
images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Lieutenant William Ryan - See Below Revolutionary War Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) At Bunker Hill - See Below Information

images/GEM3.gif (108 bytes) Medals of Honor - See Below Information

(Have information on a Prominent Ryan?  Please send information to Terry Ryan at:



An excerpt from the Bulletin of The Eire Society of Boston, Volume 52 -- Number 3, December 1993

From Colonial Times to the Present

By Mari-Elizabeth Ryan

"The Ryan family in America has long considered itself quite superior to such families as the Dohenys of California as well as the Murray-McDonnelI-Cuddihy family axis in New York. The Ryans, in fact, if asked which was the First Irish Family in the entire United States, would answer that without question it is the Ryans. Their feelings in this matter are based on the fact that there have been Ryans on these shores longer than almost any other Irish-American family..." (Real Lace: The Irish in America, by Stephen Birmingham.) Author Birmingham wrote that the first American Ryan probably was Philip Ryan, who traveled from Ireland to England in the 1680s during the reign of James II and then sailed to the American colonies, turning up in Virginia in 1690. There Philip Ryan married a Grace Whitehead, and they settled in Lynchburg -- where many Ryans can still be found today (1993). History, however, also reveals that Timothy Ryan, a mariner, married Jean Shelton on December 17, 1688, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The town's vital records (birth, marriages, deaths, etc.) show that the Ryan couple had four daughters -- Elizabeth, Sarah, Deborah, and Mary -- between 1689 and 1698.

Dr. Michael J. O'Brien, in his classic work, Pioneer Irish in New England, states that "numerous Ryans appear in Essex County rocords down to the end of the 18th century," with several families named Ryan appearing in the vital records of the towns of Marblehead, Salem, and Newburyport in that period. Since Ryans were reported in Virginia and Massachusetts, it could be assumed that many unrecorded Ryans also lived elsewhere in the colonies earlier than 1688.

In an article entitled, "Myths of Migration," Boston Globe writer Renee Graham wrote on October 13, 1991 that "... most believe the Irish came to this country to escape the potato famine, and, in fact, more than 1.6 million Irish immigrants arrived in the United States between 1840 and the mid-1850s. But the Irish also arrived in significant numbers before the famine. Between 1820 and 1840, Irish immigrants made up 35 percent of those who migrated to America during those two decades." Moreover, President William Clinton noted in his 1993 St. Patrick's Day proclamation that there were more than 300,000 Irish in America before the Revolutionary War.

At a hearing into the conduct of that war in the House of Commons, London, in May, 1779, Joseph Galloway, a Tory and former Speaker of the House of Assembly of Pennsylvania, was asked: "That part of the rebel (American) army that enlisted in the service of the Congress . . . were they chiefly composed of natives of America or were the greatest part of them English, Scotch and Irish?" Galloway replied: "The names and places of their nativity being taken down, I can answer that question with precision. There were scarcely one fourth natives of America. About one half were Irish, the other fourth were English and Scotch."

In the Revolutionary War, extant muster rolls secured in the National Archives list at least 13 Ryans who served as officers, including Captain James Ryan, 1st Regiment, South Carolina; Captain Michael Ryan, 5th Regiment, Pennsylvania Line (known as "the Line of Ireland"); Major Robert Ryan, Georgia Continental Brigade; Lieutenant William Ryan, Nixon's Massachusetts Regiment; and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ryan of the Fairfax County, Virginia Militia. The same rolls also show that at least 328 other Ryans fought as non-commissioned officers or enlisted soldiers and sailors for the American cause. At Bunker Hill, ten Ryans fought in that bloody battle across the Charles River from Boston. Lieutenant William Ryan and Bryan, Cornelius, John, and Thomas Ryan served with Colonel Nixon's Regiment from Concord; Jeremiah, John, and Michael Ryan were in the ranks of the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th Connecticut Regiments; and a James Ryan was a member of Colonel John Mansfield's' Massachusetts Regiment. A Dennis Ryan, additionally, unit not listed, was wounded in the battle.

Ryans by the thousands have volunteered and served in America's armed forces throughout its history and fought in every one of its wars. Ryans have been awarded six Medals of Honor for heroism as well as thousands of other decorations. Isaac Ryan of New Orleans died at the Alamo with Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett, and James Bowie. Three Ryans served in General George Armstrong Custer's Little Big Horn campaign. General John D. Ryan served as the Air Force Chief of Staff. Thomas D. Ryan served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 1983-85.

Father Abram Joseph Ryan was a chaplain with the Confederate Army and became known as the "Poet of the Confederacy," writing the memorable poem, "The Conquered Banner" to the measures of a Gregorian chant. The Catholic priest, also known as "The Thomas Moore of Dixie," was hailed too for his memorable poem, "The Sword of Robert E. Lee" and "In Memoriam," an ode to his young brother who was killed fighting for the Confederacy.

The names of 38 Ryans are enscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Cornelius Ryan, Eire Society Gold Medalist in 1966, journalist, and historian of the Second World War, wrote The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, and The Last Battle, and was enrolled as an officer of the Legion of Honor by France. Other notable American Ryans include: James Hugh Ryan, Archbishop of Omaha, Nebraska; Father John Augustus Ryan, pioneer social philosopher; Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Stephen Vincent Ryan, Bishop of Buffalo; and noted Protestant missionary Arthur Clayton Ryan. Additionally, Thomas Fortune Ryan, financier, art collector, and philanthropist; author George E. Ryan, who wrote the biography, Botolph of Boston, for whom the city of Boston was named; Patricia Ryan, wife of President Richard Nixon; and noted scientists Edward William Ryan, Francis Joseph Ryan, Harris Joseph Ryan, Patrick John Ryan, William Patrick Ryan, and William Thomas Ryan. John Thomas Ryan was Archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska, and Daniel Ryan, Bishop of Springfield, Illinois. The first priest ordained for the See of Boston was Denis Ryan, a native of Kilkenny, who came to Boston as a prisoner of war and was ordained by Bishop John Cheverus at the old Franklin Street Cathedral in 1817.

Also, Elizabeth Ryan, a United States, Wimbledon, and French Open tennis doubles champion over a 20-year period; Daniel C. Ryan, one-time United States figure skating titleist; film director Frank Ryan; actors Robert Ryan, Mitchell Ryan and Tim Ryan as well as actresses Meg Ryan, Irene Ryan, and Peggy Ryan; right-handed baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan, who won a record seven no-hit games; Wilfred "Rosy" Ryan, a star reliever and starter for the New York Giants, Boston Braves, Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, 1919-1933; famed Miler Jim Ryun, whose family name was misspelled by earlier antecedents on their arrival here. And, California congressman Leo Ryan, who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal following his assassination in 1983 in Guyana; James G. Ryan, author of the "Irish Records;" Walter D'Arcy Ryan, the nation's first illuminating engineer who turned that profession at General Electric into both a science and an art; Edward George Ryan, a chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; and John Dennis Ryan, an extraordinary capitalist, the first president of the powerful Anaconda Mining Co. and the Montana Power Co., and chief of this nation's combat aircraft production during World War I. There have been ten U.S. Congressmen named Ryan.

Not to be overlooked are: Michael Ryan of New York City who won the Boston Marathon in 1912 with a time of 2:21:18; Paddy Ryan, who reigned as the world heavyweight bare knuckles boxing champion from 1880-1882; Patrick Ryan, who won the Olympic gold medal in the hammer toss in 1920; Michael Ryan, who received The Nation poetry prize in 1991; author James W. Ryan of Boston, who wrote Who Killed the Red Baron? The Final Answer, the definitive work on the life and death of Baron Manfred von Richthofen -- Germany's famed red Baron who became the top fighter ace of World War I; and T. Claude Ryan, whose San Diego company built "The Spirit of St. Louis," the aircraft in which Colonel Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo from New York to Paris (by way of Ireland) in 1927. Representing the latest fashion in giving the name Win reverse" is actor Ryan O'Neil and Master Ryan Fitzgerald Reape, born in North Hills, PA, last July; his mother's maiden-name was Ryan.

Notable Ryans also include: Allan A. Ryan, international human rights lawyer at Harvard; pro football coach Buddy Ryan; Frederick J. Ryan, a former White House attorney; federal judge Harold Ryan of Idaho; James L. Ryan, U.S. circuit court judge, Detroit; John W. Ryan, past president of Indiana University; Dr. Kenneth J. Ryan, Harvard Medical School researcher; Leonard E. Ryan, New York administrative law judge; Mayor Thomas Ryan of Rochester; and syndicated cartoonist Tom Ryan of "Tumbleweed" celebrity. Worth citing: Peace Corps official Leo V. Ryan; George H. Ryan, lowa's secretary of state; Illinois state supreme court justice Howard C. Ryan; and "Jack Ryan," author Tom Clancy's perennial book hero.

According to Ireland's National Archives, "Ryan families rank as one of the ten most numerous with most Ryans today descended from the ancient O'Maoilrian family of County Tipperary. The Ryans also were an ancient family of note in Carlow, Waterford and Kilkenny." Other Ryans are descended from the O'Riains, lords of Ui Drona of County Carlow. Claiming bloodlines to a Leinster king in the second century, these Ryans managed to remain on their lands after the fall of the Gaelic order. Today, many Ryans and O'Mulryans, descendants of Ireland's Wild Geese, live throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and South America. In the United States, it is estimated that there are well over a half million people with the family name of Ryan, far more Ryans than there are in Ireland itself.

Historian Carl Wittke observed in his volume, The Irish in America: "In proportion to its total population, no other country has lost so many of its people by emigration, and through the dread centuries, the harp of Erin has given off many a melancholy strain."

Ryan Family in U.S. (continued by clan member Jim Ryan of Boston)

Other notable family members include: dramatist and theatrical producer Cherney Ryan; television executives Bill Ryan and John David Ryan; telephone company executive James V. Ryan; FBI administrator John C. Ryan; actress Marisa Ryan; painter and illustrator Tom Ryan; Irish airline executive Tony Ryan; noted California author and educator Allyn Cauagas Ryan; writer/editor Mary P. Ryan; internationally famed surgeon and sports doctor Allan J. Ryan; chairman & CEO of Prudential Insurance Co. Arthur Frederick Ryan.

Then there are: Ione Jean Ryan, a retired Hawaiian educator; Janice E. Ryan; artist educator Joan M. Ryan; publishing executive Joyce E. Ryan; sculptors Linda Lee Ryan and Veronica Maudlyn Ryan; electrical engineer Carl Ray Ryan of Gateway, Arkansas; and management information systems authority Barbara D. Ryan of Ardmore, Pennsylvania; medical educator Una Scully Ryan; university administrator Randa Ryan; federal judges James L. of Detroit and John E. Ryan of Boston; landscape architect John M. Ryan of Chicago; and biochemistry Catherine Ryan; physician and hospital corporation executive Jack Ryan of Royal Oak, Michigan; historian/writer James Gilbert of Texas A & M; biochemistry educator Clarence Augustine Ryan Jr of Washington State University..

The list also includes: Bishop Daniel Ryan of Buffalo; computer specialist David A. Ryan; manufacturing executive George W. Ryan; venture capitalist Gerald A. Ryan; Illinois retired state supreme court justice Howard Chris Ryan; Harvard University German language educator Judith Lyndal Ryan; researcher/virologist Kevin W. Ryan; business educator Leo V. Ryan; administrative law judge Leonard Eames Ryan; Japanese language educator Marleigh Grayer Ryan; retired USMC major general Michael D. Ryan; retired rear admiral Norbert R. Ryan Jr.; federal prosecutor Patrick M. Ryan; painter Richard E. Ryan; professional sports team executive Terry Ryan, and communications company executive William J. Ryan.

Not to be overlooked: attorneys Donald K. Ryan, James Ryan III, Lawrence Thomas Ryan Jr., Patrick M. Ryan, Robert Collins Ryan, Thomas F. Ryan, Vince Ryan and Miles Francis Ryan III. Technology consultant William J. Ryan; university dean and opthalmology educator Steven S. Ryan Jr.; science researcher Mike H. Ryan; physician/educator Kenneth J. Ryan; airline company executive Elizabeth Ann Ryan; animator/art director Joyce Ryan; veterinary pathologist Michael J. Ryan; manufacturing executive Robert Leland Ryan; financial planner Sheena Ross Ryan and engineering executive Ronald E. Ryan.

(The 1999 Social Register lists 27 Ryans.)



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